Sacrificing one's life for the conversion of a loved one

I am puzzled by this. I have heard about people who after years of praying for a loved one who fell away from the faith offered their life as a price for that conversion. In one particular story I read about a year ago a father was diagnosed with an illness shortly after offering his life for his son, and died within a year. His son came back to the faith after a few years and became a monk.

How does one actually make this sacrifice? To me it sounds like making a deal with God, and I can’t understand how anyone’s sacrifice can be accepted after the one that Christ made.

I would appreciate if you could enlighten me about this, and perhaps point to some written sources.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church . . . " --St. Paul the Apostle (Col. i, 24; RSVCE)

CCC 2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

Thank you.

I was never clear about that verse by St. Paul.

Basically, one can offer their life for the intention such as conversion of a hardened sinner? I assume it is done in prayer, or is there some kind of ritual one does?

The reason I ask is because yesterday an unsettling thought came to me: that I should offer my life for my children if they fall away from the faith. They are vey young so we are far away from such a scenario, but I do worry about them given the world we live in. The thought did scare me because I remember reading such stories but I never really understood the whole concept. I wish myself a long and happy life and good health and I have no desire for this kind of suffering.

I don’t think there’s an official teaching or ritual about this. It’s just one of many practical manifestations of charity. I think a simple interior “yes” would suffice. Though it might help to write it in your journal or something, to remind yourself later.

We should distinguish, of course, between saying “yes” to God if he asks something, versus seeking out danger, which would be foolish. I know someone who felt God was asking him to offer his life for his son. He said, yes, he was willing. He didn’t seek out opportunities to die, he just went on with his life. Then had serious heart trouble, then surgery and recovery. So God didn’t take his life (at least not yet), but no doubt God applied the merits of his *willingness *to die.

There are stories of various Saints offering or even asking to undergo painful illnesses or other trials. Their charity is exemplary, but in general, I don’t think most of us should go after those things. God can bring plenty of opportunities for merit without us seeking out more. But if you feel God is asking something of you, it is an act of love to say, “yes, Lord” if we really mean it–and let him bring it about. It is probably also a good idea to discuss such things with a spiritual director (which I am not).

One more thought. Offering your life might mean making sacrifices, doing penance, and offering up prayers, rather than physically dying.

This has been very helpful, I am more clear about what it means to make this kind of sacrifice.

I can’t even imagine asking for a painful illness and slow, painful death, but I have started offering things up for my children, as well as for my husband who is not a believer. Life has been quite hard lately and I have plently of material to give as a sacrifice. I have yet to start doing penance, but I have felt a very strong urge to do that as well. Something is happening and I know God wants me to leave my comfort zone a bit and perform acts of charity for others. There is a lot of need for that in my (wider) family.

It can become a trite phrase in our tradition where we are taught or encouraged to “offer it up”.

As others said, offering it up can be a penance, a prayer, an illness, a cross we have to bear. We offer it up the glory of God, but also for other intentions we might have.

Sometimes wording can be literal, and sometimes it can be what I call “catholic shorthand”. To paraphrase what another poster said – don’t worry, there will plenty of “opportunities” or situations for saying yes to God during trials. You won’t have to go looking for them

First we are “in time”…God is in the Eternal Present…its not a deal…its an actual sacrifice offered for an individual person’s in their greatest moment of need…and that sacrifice is not a “stand-alone-sacrifice”…it is joined with/grafted into the greatest sacrifice of eternity…Christ Death on the Cross… which is always eternally present to the Father…so the “merit” of our sacrifices for another are initiated by God’s Holy Spirit in us… joined to Christ’s Salvific Merit by his death on the Cross…and accepted by God because it was His idea/plan from the start…and He continuously wills that all Men --male and female–be saved.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

[INDENT]You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59

2006 The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts."62

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63


Lastly…take a look at this incredible life story of sacrifice…Pax Christi

The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest [Paperback]
Elisabeth Leseur (Author)

This inspiring book gives you a splendid example of how to live as a Christian in a secular environment that can be indifferent or hostile to your Faith. For Elisabeth Leseur had two great loves: God and her husband Felix, who was an atheist. Felix loved Elisabeth as well; yet to their mutual sorrow, he couldn’t share the life of the Spirit that Elisabeth cherished.

Occasionally the happiness of their life together in upper-class Parisian society was shattered by Felix’s frustration and impatience. How could such an intelligent woman waste her time, as he saw it, with ignorant superstitions? Sometimes he and his friends would even ridicule and mock her faith.

But Elisabeth loved Felix too much to allow their home to degenerate into an emotional war zone. She realized that confrontations and arguments were useless; she chose instead to keep quiet and pray for Felix. In her secret diary she recorded how she used his efforts to destroy her faith as means to grow in love for him and for God.

Throughout their life together, it grieved Elisabeth to think that Felix might be separated from her for all eternity because of his rejection of God.

For her, life in Heaven wouldn’t be happy without him. Yet when she died prematurely, Felix was still an unbeliever.

The story doesn’t end there. When Felix found this diary, he discovered how Elisabeth’s whole life bore witness to the truth of the God she loved.

In time, Felix was transformed by the diary and his memories of Elisabeth. He became a Christian and, later, a priest. Now she may even be declared a saint. Elisabeth’s diary and spiritual writings (all included in this one volume) map out for you a path to marital harmony and greater love for God — especially if you love someone who stands outside the Faith.

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